The internet was exhausting this week and I avoided a lot of it. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing took over every part of the internet, and probably will next week too.
This week, I chose articles I found refuge in. Some of them are recent, others are a few years old. And either way, they all contain the ideas I constantly drift back to. Highlights: The Kavanaugh-Ford accusation is taking over the internet, we are all self-designers, taste evolves, autotune is everywhere, there is an opera about Tinder, Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel needs an Emmy, tigers know the dignity they deserve, Carolyn Forche is magic, and I might always be desperately in love with the work of Elizabeth Bishop.
There were so many articles I could have picked for this, and each has their own similar hot take. A lot of them have to do with the lost dignity of politics, sexism, while some point out that Kavanaugh and Ford might both be telling the truth.
I went to protest the appointment of Kavanaugh in DC on Thursday. It was raining, so I didn’t get updates on the trial as it was happening. This was one of the first articles I read about it, and I like it because it gives a good, clear summary of the trial without a hot take. However, it was published on Thursday, and does not include Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) requirement of an FBI investigation before voting.
2. E-flux: Self-Design and Aesthetic Responsibility
I talk a lot about self-design (sorry for assuming you read this every week, but YOLO) and this is where a lot of my ideas come from. The definition of self-design given in this is that it is “the ultimate problem of design” because it “concerns not how I design the world outside, but how I design myself—or, rather, how I deal with the way in which the world designs me.” I love this definition because it expands past visual representation to include socially designed systems. Today, in one way or another, we all engage in a form of spectacle. “Everyone is required to take aesthetic responsibility for his or her appearance in the world, for his or her self-design… One is expected to be responsible for the image that he or she presents to the gaze of others.”
I don’t agree with all of it, but I find it a very effective framework for looking at contemporary culture.
3. The Pudding: How Music Taste Evolved
This is one of my absolute favorite things on the internet! All of The Pudding’s articles are basically infographics. In this piece the top five songs of each day, from 1957-2016, move along a timeline endlessly ascending and descending to their changing place on the list. When a song is at the top of the list it plays a couple seconds for each day it is number one. For some songs, this is a fleeting moment, and for others it a large part of the song plays.
When I don’t know what to listen to, this is one of my go-to things.
4. Pitchfork: How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music
I was born in 1995, and don’t remember pop music before auto-tune. One of the only musicians I can always listen to is James Blake. I often describe his music as soulful electronic. In certain songs, the effects of electronics in his music is lyrical.
The history of auto-tune is fascinating, and like with many things in my life, it is a history that I lived but never learned. After breaking out in 1998 in Cher’s “Believe” it is now “speculate[d] that it features in 99 percent of today’s pop music.” But “the crucial shift with Auto-Tune came when artists started to use it as a real-time process, rather than as a fix-it-it-in-the-mix application after the event… there is no uncooked original to work from. The true voice, the definitive performance, is Auto-Tuned right from the start.” While older generations tend to hate on autotune, “when everything else in the culture is digitally maxed out and hyper-edited, how could the human voice stay unscathed?”
5. YouTube: Connection Lost (The Tinder Opera)
I am constantly shocked by how many opera lovers I know that have never heard of this. Whenever I go on rants about opera this is always a project insight as an interesting and innovative way to reach new audiences. Connection Lost is an opera that premiered on YouTube about trying to find love in the age of dating apps. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the piece, is that shortly after it premiered online, companies strayed staging live performances.
6. YouTube: Bon Appetit
I spent a lot of time this week watching Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel. I often get distracted by listening to music when I work and usually play a TV show in the background. I haven’t been able to get into a new TV show (with at least 5 seasons with 20 40 minute episodes) so I have been watching Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel, which deserves an Emmy.
7. The Ringer: Man-eaters
IDK why but I have been really into reading about animals recently. I have always loved watching nature documentaries, but for some reason reading about elusive animals is kinda my thing right now.
Anyway, this excerpt from the forthcoming “Impossible Owls” by Brian Phillips is mesmerizing. Beautifully written, it chronicles the 12 tigers he saw in India. Apart from the tiger that is “desperately conscious of his dignity,” my favorite tiger is the last tiger Phillips saw. “I was the first to see it” Phillips recalled, “In fact my glimpse of it was so fleeting that I never had time to point it out; no one else saw it at all…. I saw a large animal. It was walking away from me. In the shadows it looked brown, almost monochrome, different from how I thought a tiger should look. Yet it moved almost like a tiger. It was almost the size of a tiger. I think it was a tiger. I think it was real. I am not sure that it was.” This description of the last tiger Phillips saw captures exactly how I image seeing a tiger the wild would feel.
8. The New York Review of Books: Alone with Elizabeth Bishop
I have written before that Elizabeth Bishop is my favorite poet. I always find it so hard to write about her because she is such a brilliant writer. And while I love Bishop, I do not love this article. The main contention I have of this piece is with the prose. I felt as though I had to work hard to understand what the author, Gabrielle Bellot, was trying to communicate, and the analysis lacked the delicacy and precision for which Bishop is known. The article is also striking in the author offers a lot of herself throughout the piece, something Bishop, who was extremely decorous, would never do.
I learned a lot from the piece and found it very interesting, however, I did not enjoy reading it.
9. The New York Times: Letters From A Lonely Poet
I almost added this as a sublink to the previous post but decided it needed its own. Thus far, this is my favorite article on Elizabeth Bishop and her work on the internet. In this review from 1994, J.D. McClatchy reviews One Art, a then newly released collection of Bishop letters. I love this review for all of the same reasons I did not like the previous one: the prose. Then again, McClatchy was also a poet.
My favorite part of this is when McClatchy describes Bishops relationship with Anny Baumann, her physician and later friend and confidante. “There are some friends in whom we confide, and others to whom we confess,” McClatchy writes before describing the nature of her relationship. Throughout the review McClatchy’s understanding of Bishop is profound. But perhaps that is because this is a review of how Bishop understood herself.
10. Interlochen Public Radio: Information, Space & Time: Carolyn Forche
My senior year in high school, my school hosted an amazing symposium on Information, Space and Time: The Arts, Creativity and Learning in the 21st Century. Amazing people—including Judith Burton, Billy Childs, Tony Kushner, Liz Lerman, Andrea Gibson— were brought to northern Michigan to speak to us, and at the time, none of us really understood what was happening. It was in October, the middle of college application season, and the whole school was basically shut down for 4 days, and it seemed like all we did was go to lectures and panels. Everyone complained, everyone was tired, everyone had work they needed to do. It wasn’t until near the end of the symposium when Carolyn Forche— a poet, teacher, and activist—gave her presentation that I began to understand the symposium.
Forche’s presentation was on the trajectory of her career, and how she incorporates politics into her work. She finished her speech with a statement that I will never forget, and one that I think about on a weekly basis. “You are not consumers. You are citizens of the republic and citizens of the world. You will be alright. I have faith in you,” she said, before closing with a few lines of one of her poems.
*All images taken from reference articles*
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